Excerpt: The Good Guys

Julian O’Hare, Knight of Elderward, pulled out his sword slowly. The silver blade, which he had named Jupiter, shone brightly in the summer sun. Though his blood pounded in his ears, he was not afraid. He couldn’t be afraid. He drew his helmet down over his head and raised his gaze towards his competitor. “I cannot do this anymore. I cannot live in a kingdom that has not been fairly ruled.”

“You should have thought of that before you joined the forces,” Lance Tier, the other Knight of Elderward, challenged. He waved his sword all for show; he didn’t have the poise and grace that Julian prided himself over. Lance was all about fear—but Julian O’Hare was not backing down.

“That’s the peculiar thing about corruption. You cannot tell where it is until you get too close. When I joined the Knights of Elderward, I thought I had moved up in the world. I truly believed that I was one of the good guys. But now I see the bitter roots and the rotten soil underneath, where the corruption and violence grows. And now I want out.”

“No one gets out,” Lance said with a chuckle. “Without a fight.”

Lance ceased waving his sword and extended it in a quick motion of controlled violence. He stepped back and held his shield against his body, ready to fight. Julian fell in line and mirrored Lance’s advances. His shield was heavy, and his arms were already tired from holding his weapons during their verbal confrontation. He wasn’t sure if he had the energy to fight. But he also knew he had no choice, and if he had to die, then it would be with honour.

Julian looked out at the small village crowd that had come to watch the dual. He addressed them all with a single nod. To say much more was to not live much beyond those few seconds. He knew he had a small army helping him in spirit: There were the mages, some fledging shadow orcs, and of course a couple of elves here and there. Everyone in the small village of Elderward gathered around, on the balls of their feet, and waited for something to happen.

Both knights faced one another and nodded again. They took one step back before the count started.

“One, two,” Lance began. He raised his eyebrow, lingering before he dared to call the next number that would start the dual. Julian mouthed each number as they sounded, preparing for what he always knew was coming.

Julian O’Hare was a character that Oliver Brook, a simple human, had been working on for years now. Lance Tier, his opposing rival, was given character by Al Stevenson, an older-generation Live Action Role Player. He had been the one who insisted that their characters face off in a final duel. He wanted to play the bad guy who had gotten into the knights’ quarters and worked on turning everyone. Oliver had been okay with this change, so long as his character—his pride and joy for years now—would remain one of the good guys. This was their last fight to keep that promise. Julian O’Hare would not go down without a fight, but he was definitely going down this afternoon. Oliver was prepared, as much as someone could be.

The Saturday afternoon LARPing group was held in the large park around Toronto’s Eaton’s Centre. Just beyond the group’s flags and brightly coloured tents filled with props were small statues that marked Toronto’s history. Sometimes people in the office buildings across the street and service workers—often tourists, too—would stop and watch the LARPers’ performance. Some people even thought the group were doing Shakespeare in the Park, though Oliver often had no idea why. Half the knights and other LARPers were not as eloquent as Shakespeare, though they were just as violent as plays like Troilus and Cressida, and with just as many fart jokes.

The LARPing group, known as the Council of Elderward, met about once a month for half the year. They usually skipped a meeting here and there when the winter months yielded too much ice to set up their tents and play-fight for a while. Today was supposed to be the last meet-up before summer break, just before the Canada Day weekend. For the next few months, The Council of Elderward would focus mostly on genre mash-ups with new characters and settings. Steampunk vampires were next on the block. As much as Oliver loved steampunk and vampires, he knew he wasn’t going to get into something that tried to weave them together. He much preferred the old medieval play-acting games, where he got to dress up like D&D characters and act out bastardized scenes from Lord of the Rings. He had grown quite fond of Julian O’Hare. But he knew that like all good things, it must come to an end. This bright, sunny afternoon in late June was as good as any other day to end the character’s life, so everyone else involved could go on to greater and better things.

“I beg you,” Julian said as he backed up to the edge of the sandpit where they fought. “Do not go gentle into this. Do not treat me as if I am made of glass. I want all that you have.”

“Good,” Lance said. “I don’t plan on being easy. Are we ready, then?”

“You still must count to three.”

“Ah.” Lance smiled, devious, just underneath his helmet. Oliver spotted the king and queen of their fictitious town in the background. The queen, played by Stacy Bradley, dropped character slightly as she rubbed her hands together. Oliver could tell just how excited everyone was for the final battle and he was even more proud to be a part of it.

“Then… three.”

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